1990: McDonald’s bids farewell to foam containers

Posted at 5:30 AM, Nov 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-19 05:30:50-05

INDIANAPOLIS — On Nov. 1, 1990, McDonald’s announced it would begin phasing out its iconic foam food packaging.

The lightweight plastic material known as polystyrene had become a fixture in transporting sandwiches for the fast food giant. The material was credited with keeping food warm and moist. Different sandwiches were packaged in different colored boxes. The Big Breakfast meals and Hotcakes also had customized packaging.

The foam containers seemed to be everywhere, including landfills.

McDonald’s had become the largest user of polystyrene packaging in the United States. It was under immense pressure from customers and environmental groups to switch to less harmful materials.

“We’ve listened to our customers, and they feel better about us having to use paper,” said a company spokesperson. ”We’ve listened to the environmentalists, and the environmental experts all agree that source reduction is the biggest opportunity to make a positive environmental impact.”

McDonald’s pledged to phase out 75% of its foam packaging within 60 days. The company planned to switch to paper packaging without passing any cost increases to consumers.